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Small steps: discovering movement when you live with chronic pain

Encouraging someone who lives with chronic pain to ‘get moving’ could sound like a misguided, insensitive piece of advice. However, throughout my years as a professional Pilates and movement coach (not to mention during my years of ill health) I’ve seen time and again the impact that the right movement can have when it comes alleviating the symptoms of chronic pain.
When people think of fitness or Pilates, they often think of hitting the gym, getting a good sweat on, or crunching abs. But my specialism isn’t about this at all. It’s about integrating key philosophies around movement, mindset and lifestyle. With every person who comes to me for help, I look at their unique set of issues or objectives and craft a bespoke pathway to help them move with more ease and less pain.

For those living with chronic pain, pharmaceutical intervention is so often the first recommendation made by medical professionals. But simple exercises, particularly for those living with conditions such as hypermobility or Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, can make a world of difference. From how you breathe, to how you hold yourself, it’s often the smallest steps that allow you to make the biggest change.

If you’re living with chronic pain and are looking to explore new ways of managing it, I recommend that you start at the very beginning: breathing.

But how does the way I breathe make any difference to my pain?

I hear this a lot.

Without breath, there is no movement. This is a mantra I return to with each and every client. Our breath is our very essence and to be present with our breath is the first step to relieving the body of stuck stress and pain.

Breathing has huge power when it comes to powering and relaxing the body. Each breath allows you to release tension in the body and promote fluidity when it comes to movement. Taking control of your breathing can help unlock movements you may have thought were beyond you.

As you take the first steps towards thinking about your breathing, here are some easy steps you can follow at home:

Sitting or lying in a quiet place, close your eyes and place your hands on your belly. Try to observe your breath flowing in and out of your body without trying to change it.
Notice the rise and fall of your belly and begin to count every breath in your head. Inhale 1, exhale 2, inhale 3, exhale 4 and so on until you come to 10. Then start again at number 1. Try to stay focused on the counting of the breath without distraction.
With every exhale, feel the tension melting from your muscles and mind as the body softens and tension dissolves.

I’m a huge believer in the life-changing power that movement can have for people living with chronic pain conditions, but without breath we can’t have effective movement. So take a moment to focus on your breathing – it’s the only place to start.

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